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george hancock stefanOur family enjoys writing our Christmas letter each year and we enjoy receiving Christmas letters from other people. We read them carefully and admire the art on many of the cards, the beautiful poetic writing and, at times, the theological truth and depth that these cards carry. For many years, we have prayed over these cards and letters and the people who sent them throughout the year.

Reading Christmas letters enables us to see many blessed changes in the families that we know. The young ones grew up, went to college, and then got married. A journalist I met this year remarked that God brings two people together to love one another through a series of miracles.  At one point, these people are strangers who met in a certain circumstance and following those events they fall in love and they marry. Then we see these new families start to have children of their own. Among some of our friends we have seen the movement away from one child to having three or four children. It is a declaration that they trust that God will provide for their children as their parents trusted that God will provide for them. And then one cannot forget the pets. I always chuckle when I see pictures in which the parents are absent, and they have been replaced by their dogs or their cats!

Nevertheless, I am always excited to see the additions that have taken place in our friend’s families. Additions happened in our family this year, too. One of our daughters got permission to bring a new puppy into our home, one daughter got engaged this year to be married, and another daughter celebrated the first birthday of her son. We have been blessed and enriched by God's additions this year.

At the same time, some of our friends have experienced losses. Some families that we considered rock solid have gone through difficulties and decided that they could no longer live together. One time, one of my college friends and I looked over the friends with whom we grew up in a conservative church. There were about 30 of us who were in high school and college together. Out of this number, about half became divorced. Some divorced less than one month after they got married, some divorced because one of the spouses could not produce children, some divorced because of verbal and physical abuse, and some divorced because someone else became more attractive and they had affairs. In listening to my friends, I found out that there are a couple of important biblical injunctions that are important for marriages. The first one has to do with the guarding one's heart to remain loving and faithful to one's spouse and the other is that those of us who are still standing should be careful lest we fall. Many years ago, I read that each marriage is as strong as the last day the couple has worked at making it strong.

The last loss from our Christmas cards is the death of loved ones. People that we have known, who have blessed and enriched our loves became less active, their communication became briefer, their residences changed to care facilities, and then they left this earthly abode. In the words of Scripture, some died full of days in their 80s and 90s while others left in their mid-forties or sixties. We had friends who died after major struggles with sicknesses and surgeries, while some died in their sleep or walking. The day of our departure is only known by the Lord and as the Apostle Paul writes, whether we live or die we belong to the Lord and nothing can separate us from His eternal love.

Our lives are God's gift to us and what we do with them is our gift to God. That is why the wisdom of the Westminster Confession of Faith reminds us that we have been made to enjoy God, and through this enjoyment, to find the purpose and the delight of our lives.